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The Party’s Over: Gators Are Swamped

January 3, 1996

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Everyone _ from fans to police to bartenders _ was ready for one rousing celebration after a Florida victory in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday night.

One small problem: the Gators were demolished.

Thousands of Florida fans left the big-screen TVs at bars around the city even before the game ended, but well after top-ranked Nebraska was on its way to its second consecutive national championship with a 62-24 blowout victory in Tempe, Ariz.

``I am just crushed about this,″ said Bruce Stratton, 28, as he watched the rout in an orange Gator helmet at the Purple Porpoise, a popular watering hole across the street from campus. ``Nebraska pushed us all over the place. We would have gone crazy if Florida would have won.″

Marjorie Speer, a bartender at the Purple Porpoise, said the bar was prepared for the best _ and the worst.

``It cleared out pretty quick, but if the Gators were doing better, this place would have been torn up,″ Speer said. ``It is calm and everybody is just going home. We aren’t happy about it, because we wouldn’t have minded the celebration.″

At Joe’s Deli, another popular student hangout, the crowd totaled close to 200 fans during the first half, but was nearly empty by the time the game was over.

Gainesville Police Department chief Waylon Clifton was among the 80 uniformed police officers walking University Avenue preparing for a scene rivaling the celebration following Florida’s 35-24 Florida State victory in November.

``After the FSU game, the fans stormed the street and really blocked everything up,″ Clifton said while fans trickled into the night. ``I guess we are a little overprepared. We were hoping to block off some streets and celebrate, but it didn’t happen.″

Despite the loss, a welcoming party has been scheduled when Florida returns Wednesday afternoon.

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